New York City Facing $497 Million in Claims from Crane Mishap

By | June 13, 2008

New York City has received more than $497 million of claims for personal injury, property damage and wrongful death due to a construction crane collapse on Manhattan’s East Side on March 15, the city comptroller said on Friday.

The 90-day filing deadline ended on Friday, and out of the 46 claims that name the City of New York, “several” filings do not seek any specific dollar amount, said Jeff Simmons, a spokesman for the Democratic Comptroller William Thompson.

Seven people died when the giant construction crane fell and crushed a midtown apartment building on East 51st Street, and more than 10 were injured.

Just weeks later on May 30, another crane collapsed on East 91st Street, killing two workers and ripping the balconies off a neighboring apartment building.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded on June 4 by proposing new safety measures for construction, including bigger fines, the ability to track how companies perform at multiple sites and the power to stop work by faulty companies.

In just the first five months of the year, 15 people died in construction accidents, more than in any single year in the past four to five years, according to the mayor.

At least two probes are underway and on June 6, New York City’s chief crane inspector was charged with taking bribes to ensure cranes passed inspections and aiding a crane company by helping its workers pass safety exams.

Critics of Bloomberg, an independent, say he has relied too much on new building to revive the city’s economy, pushing through major rezoning of broad tracts of land in all five boroughs to allow much denser development with taller towers.

Those taller buildings require giant cranes, which pose a special hazard on the Upper East Side because it was not rezoned to reduce the height of buildings, while this has been done for much of the Upper West Side.

Building industry officials say they fear a crackdown will add costs and delays to New York City’s burdensome permitting process, just as the industry struggles to cope with the downturn caused by the credit crunch.

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